Reader theme review: Minimal, but not in a lazy way

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Reader theme post graphic

Reader is a theme by new theme shop WP Minima, a brand which sells entirely on ThemeForest at the moment. They’ve released two themes so far, one free and one paid. This is the paid theme, which costs $35.

Reader, being both new and minimalistic, caught my eye last week. A lot of the time, theme designers will put something together and call it minimal, almost as an excuse to not put much thought into what’s designed. Or to leave things kind of plain. At least that’s the impression I get when looking at some WordPress themes that get released.

In this case, I think it’s clear that WP Minima put time into Reader and made real decisions. I don’t agree with all of them, but there’s a consistent, strong design aesthetic here that doesn’t come across as what I’ll call “lazy minimal”. It’s minimal, in a good way.

Digging further in

Digging further into the theme, there are design decisions I like as well as those I don’t. The first subtle bit I liked was the fuzzy hover effect on the blog’s title. It’s a neat, happy effect that makes the title of the blog a little more interesting. A lot of themes will make their titles and site headings interesting by dropping in a logo – a logo, of course, that won’t make any sense on a user’s site once they get rolling with the theme. This design touch makes any blog title interesting, just be tweaking the text itself a little.

Reader theme header fuzzy on rollover

When rolling over the title of the site, it gets all fuzzy. Is it weird that I find things like that really nice?

That said, some of the interactions aren’t as great. There are two sliding effects worked into the theme that bug me. Reader hides things behind a click-trigger, which requires the visitor to click to view (what I consider) important information.

These triggers are in two places: the site description in the header, and every post’s date and comment counts on archive pages. In both cases, as a visitor, I’m not very likely to click to see that information. That information is something I’ll see and will catch my eye as I scroll down the page. Requiring user action in these areas is really the biggest detractor toward using this theme, in my mind.

Plugin included with the theme

The Minima Shortcodes plugin that came along with the theme is half good and half “meh”. Obviously dropping shortcodes into a plugin is a big plus, and that they seem intended to work with any Minima theme when it’s installed is a great idea.

The plugin’s positive offerings include a few nice call-out styles. There’s a message box, an intro, some highlighting, and so on. With these classes matched across their offering of themes it has its usefulness. I would also like to see the plugin with an option to drop in minimal styles (no pun intended) so the shortcodes can maintain their general look and feel even when other themes are active.

Shortcodes in use within the Reader theme

The intro and message shortcodes in user within a post. They’re subtle, but noticeable.

Then there’s the less exciting side of the plugin, which is a set of shortcodes clearly included for average users. There’s one that forces line breaks so they aren’t stripped out by the WordPress editor, for instance.

I should say these types of shortcodes aren’t exciting to me, but might be a breath of fresh air to users who have complained about the WordPress WYSIWYG editor before. So I don’t really consider these a negative inclusion, but more of a “meh”.

What Reader really gets right

Some of my favorite things about Reader, honestly, are things that it just gets right. There aren’t any nasty theme settings screen with the WP Minima branding on it, which is a relief quite honestly.

In addition, the theme acts as you’d expect it to when it comes to basic WordPress features. Sidebars, widgets, menus, even background colors and the theme customizer operated exactly as I would have wanted. It sounds silly, both when discussing that and writing it down here, but it’s truly shocking how many themes out there just fall apart under these basic sanity checks.

Reader theme and the customizer

Seriously, more theme developers should really dive in and make their themes work with the theme customizer. It makes working with themes so much better.

I also really like the implementation of the featured images. Having them fit across the post block gives it a good feel, and would keep me excited to find – or take, rather – images to fit with each post.

Post formats in Reader seem to each be styled uniquely, which is great to see any theme doing. I’m also partial to theme-specific WYSIWYG editor styles, which Reader pulls off near perfectly.

Final thoughts

Reader is a solid minimal blogging theme, and has gone on my list of themes to recommend to anyone looking to just get a site up and get writing. It’s not a perfect theme, but I think I would still rank it up there with the solid simplicity of the default Twenty Ten through Twelve themes, albeit with its own style.

Given that Reader is only the second theme to come out of WP Minima so far, I’d say it’s a shop to keep an eye on.

Oh, and if you’d like to hear further thoughts on Reader — and other awesome and sometimes-not-so-awesome WordPress themes — listen to the latest episode of the Theme Show podcast.

WPCandy rated this 4 mints

This review was completed using a copy of Reader provided to WPCandy by WP Minima.

5 thoughts on “Reader theme review: Minimal, but not in a lazy way

  1. We really enjoyed reading the review and the feedback from you guys! We are really gratefull that our first premium theme was so well received by the WordPress community.

    We are now more determined than ever to keep creating beautiful, minimalistic designs done right :)

    Thanks again!
    WpMinima

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